Alexandre Lacazette: Man United need Europe's most wanted

Andrew Gibney 18:05 23/01/2015
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  • In demand: Alexandre Lacazette (l) reels away in celebration.

    There is little doubt that Lyon’s youthful forward, Alexandre Lacazette, is one of the hottest players in Europe at the moment. The 23-year-old scored 23 goals in 2014 and he has now been linked with a whole host of top clubs, including Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

    One club that hasn’t been linked so far is Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United, but if the Dutchman wants to lift his club to the next level, they must go all-in to bring Lacazette to Manchester this summer.

    Reports have linked English clubs with a move this January, but with Lyon’s current position at the top of Ligue 1, and the player’s recent contract extension until 2018, his departure is as unlikely as anything in football can ever be.

    Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas, never one to err on the side of caution, put the stoppers on any move this month while talking to French paper Le Parisien, describing Lacazette as priceless. 

    “You can’t put a figure on it,” he said. “What’s the name of the Welshman at Real Madrid? I think Alexandre is a lot better. But Alexandre doesn’t have a price, so it’s pointless thinking of one.”


    Aulas knows that there will be interest in January, but isn’t worried about the player’s head being turned just yet.

    “We have resolved the problem by signing a contract through to 2018,” he said. “I find him transformed. He has grown. He’s an intelligent boy – he knows the team and the coach allows him to express himself and enable him to become one of Europe’s best marksmen.”

    The signing of another Frenchman, Eric Cantona, back in 1992 inspired United to the 1992-93 Premier League title and four championships in five years. The strength of Chelsea and Manchester City in the current landscape would make it difficult for Lacazette to have a similar impact.

    However, unlike the performances of Radamel Falcao since he joined from Ligue 1, Lacazette could be the piece of the puzzle that lifts Manchester United back into the race for the Premier League title

    Lacazette’s development over the past four years has been an absolute delight to watch. Under Claude Puel and in Rémi Garde’s early stages, the young forward was often played wide in Lyon’s 4-3-3. Behind both Bafetimbi Gomis and Lisandro Lopez in the pecking order, he was rarely allowed to take up the central role.

    His first three seasons in the first-team were difficult at times, but it was all about building the foundations and developing his all-round game. After 69 games, Lacazette scored just nine times and there were often worries within the French game that he may never live up to his early potential.

    When Lyon had to offload high-earner Lopez it opened a space for Lacazette to play next to Gomis and the forward has not looked back since. After scoring 15 goals last season, he has already surpassed that figure with 20 goals in 21 games this term, putting him on course to beat Jean-Pierre Papin and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s 30-goal mark in 2013-14.

    Manchester United are currently paying Colombian striker Radamel Falcao around £265,000 per week. When you add in the £6 million loan fee, the total bill comes to just under £20 million by the end of May. His record of three goals in 13 games is unlikely to convince Van Gaal sanctioning the £43.5 million option to buy in the summer.

    Although it’s impossible to compare the productivity of two strikers while playing in different leagues, you can contrast the performances from last season when they both played in Ligue 1.

    Falcao scored nine in 15 games, seven of which came in his first seven games. Lacazette scored 15 in 33 games, had three assists and averaged 2.4 shots per game.

    Falcao, as you would expect, had a higher shots per game average at 2.9, but his overall productivity was lower. Lacazette made over double as many key passes, and was successful in 1.4 dribble attempts per game, compared to Falcao’s 0.8.

    There’s little doubt that it’s Lacazette’s overall game that impresses as much as his goal record. His time on the wing has made him adept at beating his opponent with sheer power and pace. Then when you give him the ball with his back to goal, he has the ability to turn on a sixpence, spin past defenders and charge towards the opposition’s box.

    Often criticised for his ability to finish when he was younger, this season he can’t miss. Lyon have won five league games in-a-row, taking them to the top of the table, with Lacazette becoming the first player in Ligue 1 history to score four consecutive braces.

    Unsurprisingly, the player’s agent has become a busy man of late, but he backed up the words from Aulas, seemingly toeing the party line.

    “Lacazette will not leave this winter,” said David Venditelli. “The phone rings a lot but he does not aim to leave and even less this winter.”

    His words seem to suggest that the player’s long-term future is at Lyon, and with the club not looking to cash-in anytime soon, it may take a huge bid in the summer to tempt them.

    Lyon are currently putting the final touches on their new 58,000 Stade des Lumières, which should be ready to host Ligue 1 matches in January of 2016.

    Aulas has a vision of Lacazette being the man to lead his team out in the new stadium, hopefully with the addition of Champions League football. That would mean the club resisting any bids during the summer window, which will be a huge test of Lyon’s resolve.

    With Robin van Persie ageing rapidly and Falcao failing to hit the mark at Old Trafford, there could be a space opening up in Louis van Gaal’s side for a dynamic, all-action centre-forward.

    If Manchester United does have in excess of £40 million to spend on a striker this summer, putting faith in the France international and luring Lacazette to the Theatre of Dreams could be the move that catapults the club back to greatness.